In my last column, I warned of the rising tide of terrific fights that was about to usher in the spring boxing calendar like a tidal wave of exhilaration for boxing fans. First on the agenda WBO junior lightweight champion Vasyl Lomachenko defends his title for the sixth time against Jason Sosa. In this day and age that in itself does not sound particularly impressive until you familiarize yourself with the Ukrainian’s record of 7-1, 5 KO’s! If you’re wondering just how good this kid really is his nickname of “Hi –Tech” has become completely useless outside of an interesting moniker on his robe. The world has adopted this sensational boxer and renamed him “Loma” for short, but with complete admiration. When I personally describe him I have used this equation: “You can’t step to him. You can’t step away either!” He’s that good.
Sosa is a scrappy well-schooled fighter with proper experience to warrant the challenge. Unfortunately, he is tailored made for Loma to be an HBO sacrificial lamb. That is not to say the network is placating boxing dates with “filler” opponents, but rather a generalization that only the elite echelon fighters who reside in 130 pound neighborhood can present a worthy challenge. Sosa is ranked number 2 behind Orlando Salido who beat Lomachenko for vacant belt in Vasyl’s second professional fight by split decision. Salido juxtaposed was entering ring for 57th time.
As for Salido, his lofty position may yet guarantee a rematch that many fans would love see come to fruition, but the reality is too many hard fights have already taken the edge off of Orlando’s “A” game. Since edging out Loma on the scorecards, he has gone 1-1-2 in his last four ring appearances.
The Stats: The champion stands 5’6” with a 65” wingspan. Loma is a 29 year old south paw with Valhalla type amateur background having won Olympic Gold Mmedals in both ’08 and ’12.
Sosa stands 5’5” with a 67” reach. His modest record of 20-1-4, 15 KO’s suggests a spotty career, but in fact, he started out his first eight fights going 4-1-3. The only other blemish on his record was against highly ranked Nicholas Walters in 2015. Most ringsiders thought Walters did enough to win the 10 round bout. He originally hails from the tough streets of Camden New Jersey.
The aforementioned Walters known to fans as the “Ax-Man” is a common opponent and good barometer to gage the validity of how difficult this match will be for both contestants. While Sosa gave a good stand up fight refusing to yield to Walters’ vaunted power he simply didn’t do enough to win. When matched against Lomachenko last November, Nicholas swore he’d knock out the champion or die trying. Loma had other ideas and introduced them to Walters on a highly personal level. The champion’s beguiling footwork allowed him to hit his foe at will and nary catch a punch in return. After feeling the surgence of supremacy raging through his veins he turned up the heat in the sixth round with volume punches from impressive angles that completely dominated and disoriented Walters. The seventh provided more of the same. When the bell rang for round eight Walters told referee Tony Weeks he no longer wished to continue. All the pre-fight bravado was officially recorded as stoppage 7th at 3:00 mark. The “no-mas” was nobly explained with the simplicity of “I was getting hit, but could not hit him with my power shots.”
Styles: The champion fights with a right hand lead and confuses good boxers with footwork never quite witnessed before in a boxing ring. The Immortal Willie Pep would tip his hat to this boxer. It’s not just the moves, but the speed in which he displays his talents. He literally can change directions and ring real estate as fast as the eye can follow. I do not exaggerate. He is more adept at entering the pocket and exiting the gate on either side more effortlessly than ring legend Manny Pacquiao. While his foes are trying to adjust distance and calibrate timing they are literally getting picked about from either side by Lomachenko’s offense.
Sosa carries a tight guard well about his face in almost peek-a-boo fashion. While this protects his temples and chin it does present tunnel vision against a man who will be throwing leather from daft blinding angles. Jason is a flat footed fighter who stands his ground just as well, but will be looking like a stationary object after two rounds. Add the fact that he all too often squares up in pocket when on offense and this becomes an exhilarating exhibition for the Ukrainian. While the challenger owns a two inch reach advantage it becomes negated due to the positioning of his defense. He won’t be able to let his hands go and cover up at the same time.
The fight: Another title fight for WBO champion to showcase his skills. Sosa has the heart and chin and even respectable power to make a decent match with most contenders but here will be overwhelmed after a few rounds as Loma warms up.
Prediction: Vasyl Lomachenko by stoppage, long before the tenth round. He will be an easier target to reach with conviction than his last challenger.
Bout to be televised April 8 on HBO and hosted at MGM National Harbor. Oxon Hill Maryland.
Star gazing: Fans have been matchmaking with dream fight scenarios across the internet hoping some brave promoters unite Vasyl with newly crowned WBC Lightweight champ Mikey Garcia. If it is to happen at all it has to happen soon as Garcia has visions of moving north already. He owns the perfect laconic style to compliment Loma’s movement. Garcia is an icemen inside the ring where he refuses to budge an inch from his efficient style and simply waits for your nerves to crack before turning up his offense. In the meantime he patiently picks you apart with constant pressure while maintaining a tight and intimidating defense.